(NASDAQ:AMZN) is bringing the experience of holiday shopping and catching a movie out of the mall and into the home. Its new marketing initiative is aimed at having visions of its merchandise dancing in shoppers' heads, but the effort shows that businesses are still figuring out how to best use broadband media.

The online retailer announced on Tuesday that its Web site will feature five short films over the next five weeks. Amazon is calling the series a "free holiday gift" to customers, although the films display items customers can buy on the Web site, in addition to special links in the credits directing buyers to more information on specific products.

The initiative marks the latest attempt by various companies to incorporate broadband content into their businesses. Amazon's films follow in the footsteps of similar shorts from American Express (NYSE:AXP) and BMW. Meanwhile, in hiring former TV executive Lloyd Braun last week, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) signaled its eagerness to leverage the growing presence of broadband in U.S. households. The Internet giant also has been reportedly lobbying Hollywood to create programs to be shown exclusively on its properties, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The role of online video in generating sales remains ill-defined, however. Amazon gets high marks for effort -- well-known actress Minnie Driver stars in the first film, and the links in the credits are helpful. But the short also had some distinct limitations -- finding products was a challenge, and watching the film seemed entirely too passive an experience given the Web's interactive environment. For its part, Amazon says the films are not really designed to heavily promote products but rather as entertainment. Unfortunately, the film doesn't offer much in that department either.

Broadband media continues to captivate the companies who are eager to reach consumers in new ways, but at this stage, the technology's full potential seems yet to have been realized. Amazon and the others aren't likely to throw in the towel, though, and eventually someone will get it right.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.